August 8 – Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

The weather for the leg from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie was forecast to be good VFR flying conditions. The flight along the Bruce Peninsula and past Manitoulin Island was quite pleasant seeing all the small islands and lakes, however you could see some weather off in the distance along the next leg of our journey.

 Nearing our destination we came across two lake freighters on their way to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Perhaps these ships may have recently been in Hamilton at the steel mills. 

After contacting the control tower at Sault Ste. Marie airport we were cleared for a straight in approach to Runway 30. This stop was planned to be a quick fuel stop then on our way to Thunder Bay.

A check of the weather revealed that indeed there would be some weather for us to contend with. From the GFA (Graphical Area Forecast) we could see that there was a cold front to cross prior to Wawa and there may be some thunder storms along that front. That meant that we were unable to go IFR and risk the possibility of being in cloud and encountering weather conditions beyond the capabilities of our aircraft.

We took off and not too far north of Sault Ste. Marie we could see that this leg was going to present some challenges. The initial portion was flown at relatively low altitudes due to the weather conditions.  Just north of the airport along the south east shore of Lake Superior there is a Wind Turbine Farm stretching for about 10 miles. It looked very similar to what we had seen the other day along the north shore of Lake Erie.

For a significant portion of the flight there was considerable clouds sometimes above us, sometimes below us, sometimes both. Good VFR conditions prevailed.

It is always important to have what I call “tactical” weather information for the area where you are currently flying, and “strategic” weather information for an overall picture of the weather that lies ahead so you can make critical in-flight decisions.

The weather improved as we neared Thunder Bay but you could still see more significant weather off in the distance.

We landed at Thunder Bay and taxied in ending up parked in the same spot as on our trip eastbound. 

That was enough flying for today. It was time to head to the hotel and  relax.

August 8 – Brantford to Niagara Falls to Collingwood, Ontario

It was time for us to head home to British Columbia. The trip has been safe and enjoyable seeing many parts of Canada and catching up with old friends and relatives. So now we face the adventure and the challenges as we head westward.

Randy gave us a ride to Brantford airport then we loaded the Arrow, checked the weather, filed a flight plan for our departure, and were on our way. The plan was to see some of the Niagara Peninsula, circle Niagara Falls, then head to Collingwood for brunch.

Southern Ontario, like many other parts of Canada, is big on harnessing the energy of the wind and sun to generate electricity. The north shore of Lake Erie has been developed extensively and has a significant number of Wind Turbine Farms and solar panels in the area south of Brantford. I wanted to see the installations and take a photo or two.

ForeFlight has a feature on the Maps page where you can turn on the display of “Obstacles”. When I activated that feature I was quite surprised to see how many windmills there were in such a small area. I used to fly with my students in this area on low level navigation training flights but I would be very reluctant to do so now.

Although the Wind Turbine Farms are marked on the VFR navigation charts it is really quite un-nerving when you see them for real out the window. I descend to a safe altitude of several hundred feet above them to get an appreciation of what it’s like flying over them. Not a real good feeling.

Seeing the blades turning gave an eerie feeling like something was down there trying to get me.  

There were fields and fields of solar panels. I wonder how these solar panels appear, and what affect they have on a pilot’s vision, when the sun is low on the horizon causing significant reflection; could be quite blinding and unsafe.

We approached the Niagara Falls area with caution. The Canada Flight Supplement has a very specific and detailed procedure for all pilots to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. I headed for the 420/QEW waypoint,  while listening for other aircraft and making the required radio calls.

The procedure for sightseeing around Niagara Falls is to turn on all your lights and fly a clockwise pattern as depicted above, not below 3,500 feet and not any faster than 130 knots. 

We heard and saw many other aircraft in the vicinity. There were several commercial helicopters conducting aerial tours below us and a couple of flights departed from the Niagara Falls International Airport across the river in New York State.

It truly is amazing flying over a world class site.

The little red boat in the river is the “Maid of the Mist” tour boat and it goes right up to the Horseshoe Falls. It’s an experience you will never forget so be sure to bring a water proof camera to capture your memories. You can also take the “Journey Behind the Falls” tour and see the power and feel the thunderous vibration of the immense curtain of water of the Horseshoe Falls. We did these trips several years ago and our children still talk about them.

After a few trips around the pattern we departed westward along the south shore of Lake Ontario toward Hamilton at the west end of the lake. Our routing took us by the steel mills in Hamilton and the Burlington Skyway Bridge.

Collilngwood was next on a northbound flight at an altitude to see and appreciate the farmlands and features of southern Ontario. 

With the Runway 31 in sight from several miles back I was expecting an easy arrival with a straight-in approach. The airport was much busier than anticipated as I later found out there are two very active flying schools and an active general aviation community. I identified the arriving aircraft and joined the procedure for landing on the active Runway 31.

By this time we were starting to get a little hungry and had picked this airport as the restaurant, “Airport Cafe”, had been recommended by someone in Brantford. Well, we ordered a nice breakfast and I have to tell you it was the best breakfast we have ever had at a small airport. We would definitely recommend this restaurant and look forward to the day when we can enjoy another amazing meal.